Top Ohio newspapers failed to adequately highlight the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council's (ALEC) influence on recent asbestos legislation in the state.
On December 4, the Ohio Senate passed an ALEC-inspired bill that curbs the ability of asbestos victims to file lawsuits for damages. From Legal Newsline:
A bill meant to stop the duplication of asbestos lawsuits has passed the Ohio state Senate.
The bill, which passed the Senate by a 19-14 vote, would require anyone to reveal all asbestos claims filed by them or for them. If they don't do so, the person could face perjury charges. The bill made it through Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. It passed the House in January.
Critics, however, say the measure would slow legitimate claims. And they say the bill would make Ohio the first state with such claim restrictions even though Ohio is among the states with the biggest backlog of asbestos claims.
The Dayton Daily News and Cincinnati Enquirer both failed to link the harmful asbestos bill to ALEC in their original reporting, despite it being covered in other states and nationally. Only the Columbus Dispatch ran an original story that noted the piece of legislation was an ALEC model bill, while the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Dayton Daily News published AP versions of the story that briefly mentioned ALEC. None of the stories highlighted the several legislators who supported the bill who are also known members of ALEC.
Ohio has the 8th highest rate of death in the nation from mesothelioma and asbestosis with 1,328 total mesothelioma and asbestosis deaths from 1999 to 2008. Ohio is one of several states to pass an ALEC inspired bill attempting to limit the damages victims of asbestos exposure can seek. This year alone, legislation attempting to curtail victims' rights has been passed in Michigan, Arizona, Idaho, and Utah. The Minnesota legislature also passed an ALEC inspired bill, however it was vetoed by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton (D).
In 2001, ALEC and manufacturing company Crown Holdings, Inc. jointly crafted model legislation which attempted to limit the amount in compensation victims of asbestos-related diseases received from companies who exposed their workers to asbestos. Coverage of the model bill in Minnesota from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune revealed that this "national effort" was being undertaken by the "$8 billion can manufacturer to shield itself from costly asbestos lawsuits." Even the general counsel to Crown Holdings, William Gallagher, announced in testimony before the Michigan House Judiciary Committee that the laws passed in other states were based on ALEC model legislation and urged Michigan to enact a similar law.
Unsurprisingly, several legislators involved in the crafting of the Ohio asbestos bill are or were members of ALEC. A Cincinnati Enquirer article -- while completely omitting any ALEC mentions -- cited several legislators who sponsored and voted for the bill including the bill's originator Rep. Louis Blessing Jr., Senate President Tom Niehaus, Sen. Bill Seitz and Sen. Bill Coley. All four have known ties to ALEC according to the Center for Media and Democracy's project, ALEC Exposed.
Despite the many news reports and facts linking this bill to ALEC, Ohio newspapers generally failed to produce original content which makes the link. The Cincinnati Enquirer published a piece of original content that made no mention of ALEC. The Dayton Daily News published one original news story which did not mention ALEC. In addition, the Daily News published two AP stories on the bill, but only one of which made the ALEC connection. The only paper to run an original story mentioning ALEC was the Columbus Dispatch which, buried at the bottom of a story on legislative action banning Internet cafes, wrote a short blurb on other lame-duck legislative action:
Following a spirited debate, the Senate approved House Bill 380, which is aimed at victims of on-the-job asbestos exposure who try to pursue two avenues for damages. It would require workers to disclose all asbestos claims they have filed. Critics say it would block legitimate claims. The bill is based on model legislation from the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council. The bill passed 19-14, with four Republicans, including Sen. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, joining all Democrats in opposition.
The Cleveland Plain Dealer and Dayton Daily News both ran an AP version of the story that referenced ALEC at the end of the story:
The bill stems from model legislation developed by the conservative American Legislative Exchange Council, which has drawn attention for the entree it's recently gained at statehouses through efforts including opulent, corporate-backed conferences not always subject to normal disclosure rules.
None of this coverage -- the original content as well as the AP article -- mentioned the direct and extensive links between the bill's sponsors and ALEC, even when mentioning those legislators in their reporting.
Ohio papers are not alone, however. When the ALEC asbestos bill was passed in Michigan neither of the state's two biggest newspapers covered the connection.
It's been just about a year since developer and financier Douglas Manchester bought the San Diego Union-Tribune, the largest newspaper in the city. For some staffers and media observers, it's been the worst year in the paper's eight-decade history.
Manchester, a major Republican Party contributor, and U-T CEO John Lynch have overhauled the once-respected daily into what many consider a front for Manchester's "cheerleading" for business interests and right-wing politics.
"People are so embarrassed by the [newspaper] that they are dropping their subscriptions," says Don Bauder, who spent 30 years at the Union-Tribune from 1973 to 2003, which included stints as financial editor and columnist. "Around town it is an embarrassment."
A group headed by Manchester purchased the Union-Tribune in November 2011, just a few years after the paper won two Pulitzer prizes. He took over operations in January 2012 and immediately put his mark on the paper, changing the name to U-T San Diego to promote all of its news outlets beyond print, hiring Lynch, a longtime friend and local radio station owner, as his CEO, and placing a front-page editorial on the print edition that all but vowed to work for big business.
Such changes have come at a cost. David Carr of The New York Times, among the most respected media columnists in the country, wrote in June that the Union-Tribune "often seems like a brochure for [Manchester's] various interests." He added that any pretense of protecting news coverage from the new ownership's editorial views "was obliterated from the start."
The paper's decline has continued apace since Carr published his piece. In the run up to November's elections, the paper took its support for a Republican mayoral candidate to unusual lengths with front page editorials, while also disparaging President Obama via opinion pieces that featured vitriol usually confined to Internet fever swamps.
From its outlandish front page editorializing for a new football stadium and waterfront development (which would indirectly benefit Manchester's bank account) to its top executive's threatening email to a public official, the newspaper is considered by many staff and local media experts to have fallen into an ethical morass.
And that worry has grown worse in the past few months as Manchester bought the North County Times, a smaller daily in nearby Escondido, CA, which was considered a necessary rival to the Union-Tribune.
"The only way the paper will survive is if people trust it to give the news of their community," said Dean Nelson, director of journalism at nearby Point Loma Nazarene University, who also writes for The New York Times and The Boston Globe. "If people get the sense it is just whoring for the leadership's business enterprises, they are done.
Philip Anschutz, billionaire oil baron-turned-media mogul, has acquired the Colorado Springs Gazette, adding the Colorado daily to a growing stable of Anschutz-controlled newspapers that includes the largest newspaper in the neighboring state of Oklahoma; and if the past is any indication, the future objectivity of the Gazette's content, especially as it pertains to energy issues, is in considerable peril.
Since being acquired by Anschutz in September 2011, The Oklahoman, especially its editorial page, has consistently advocated for energy policy positions that would line its owner's pockets. The Gazette looks poised to follow suit -- other than the goal of providing content across a variety of technological platforms, the only specific changes Anschutz has promised (through his media company Clarity Media Group) constitute a vast expansion of the paper's opinion pages, with no mention of additional resources needed to report the news.
From the Gazette's editorial board (emphasis added):
In coming weeks, expect to see exciting changes. Clarity executives plan to add pages and personnel. The opinion section will expand from one page to at least two on weekdays, and possibly more on Sundays. We will add new columnists and additional editorials. Readers should begin seeing changes very soon.
Mostly, we will work with more dedication than ever to serve our community with news and information our customers want and need. We plan to inform customers in print and on all platforms, ranging from smartphones, to tablets, to laptops and all other information mediums the public chooses to embrace today and into the future. We will inform, persuade and entertain. We will serve as a watchdog, guarding liberty and the interests of our community.
Given Colorado's importance as a (re-)emerging source of oil shale and natural gas, and given Anschutz's use of The Oklahoman's opinion pages to advocate for open drilling policies and against carbon controls, Gazette readers can likely expect a similar kind of distorted coverage and commentary. (In late November, for example, The Oklahoman's editors expressed skepticism about global warming and warned against "mixing science" with politics).
And the Gazette's current editors didn't wrap up their announcement with reassurances that their coverage would remain independent and uninfluenced by ownership -- just the opposite, in fact:
Anschutz has been successful in business, ranking high on the Forbes 400 for decades, because he works to improve the world he lives in.
We at The Gazette plan to help him expand this important role.
Of course, the Forbes 400 doesn't rank people on their contributions to society -- it's a "definitive ranking of the nation's super rich." Presumably, Anschutz has remained on the list for decades because he's skilled at making money, and he now has the Gazette to help him make even more.
The three largest newspapers in Texas have so far failed to report on comments made by Texas Health and Human Services Commissioner Dr. Kyle Janek over the past two months in which he claimed not to believe the official number of people without health insurance in Texas. Nearly two weeks after Republican Gov. Rick Perry officially notified the federal government that Texas would not be setting up a health care exchange under the Affordable Care Act to help people get insurance, readers of the Houston Chronicle, The Dallas Morning News, and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram remain in the dark about the out-of-touch comments from by the governor's social services czar, according to a Media Matters analysis.
In September and again in October, Janek discussed the problem of uninsured Texans at forums held by the Texas Tribune. During his first comments at the Texas Tribune Festival, Janek said he did not believe the Census Bureau's statistics describing the percentage of uninsured Texans -- which currently stands at 26.3 percent -- because according to him, the Census Bureau asked the wrong question.
In October, Janek re-framed his position telling the Texas Tribune during a one on one discussion with Texas Tribune founder Eric Smith that the Census Bureau asked "a question" instead of saying they asked the wrong question.
From a transcript of a video (at the 13:40 mark) posted by the Texas Tribune:
ERIC SMITH (TEXAS TRIBUNE): Let me ask you a broader question about the state of health policy in Texas and the uninsured. You know that the U.S. Census Bureau some six weeks ago put out a report that said that Texas now has 5.8 million uninsured citizens, 23 percent of our population, which makes us first among the states in the percentage of our citizens insured. You gave an interview to Emily Ramshaw of the Tribune at the Texas Tribune Festival in which you basically said I don't believe those statistics. This is the U.S. Census Bureau, not Public Policy Polling. It's a little hard to argue that the polls are skewed when the numbers are coming from the Census Bureau Dr. Janek, don't you think?
DR. KYLE JANEK (TEXAS HHSC): Umm, no their numbers are accurate for the question that they asked.
SMITH: So you think they asked the wrong question?
JANEK: No I don't, I think they asked a question.
SMITH: A question.
JANEK: Not the wrong question, it's a question. And here's the issue. If you go out now today and you go knock on doors as the Census Bureau does and do it by letter and say, "Do you have insurance," a lot of folks will say no, it doesn't mean they won't have insurance next week, it doesn't mean they will have insurance next week, it could be years before they have insurance again, it's a snapshot.
Later in the video Smith does push back on Janek's assertion that the Census Bureau had inaccurate data. However, these numbers shouldn't come as a surprise to new commissioner. As RH Reality Check points out, these numbers have remained consistent since 1987:
Janek must not be aware that for nearly 25 years, the Census Bureau's "snapshot" has shown practically the same thing: since 1987, Texas repeatedly has one of the highest, or the very highest, number of uninsured adults in the country. That rate has not been below 1987's 23 percent; it peaked at 26.8 percent in 2009 and is currently estimated at 26.2 percent.
As Texas Tribune pointed out in its first report pushing back on the comments, the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey -- which does ask if the respondent had health insurance within the last year -- still puts the uninsured rate at about a quarter of the population:
There's a flip side to his first argument: The Census Bureau's Current Population Survey, which asks whether respondents had health insurance at any point in the previous year, also puts Texas' rate of uninsured at about a quarter of the population. That survey is much smaller -- it has a national sample size of 100,000 addresses -- but is more detailed and conducted by more experienced staff.
"The suggestion that Texas would shoot to the top because of the way the question is asked -- I cannot think of any reason why anything would be different here," said Anne Dunkelberg, associate director of the liberal Center for Public Policy Priorities. "The same conditions exist here that exist in the whole country, except we have more people uninsured, and we're spending billions of dollars in local property taxes" on hospital care.
While Texas Tribune pushed back on his comments, newspapers in Texas failed to hold the commissioner accountable. According to a Media Matters analysis of coverage on Nexis and the newspapers' websites, since his appointment at the end of July, none of the three Texas newspapers examined wrote about Janek's controversial comments, and only one gave him more than a passing mention. On November 11, almost a month and a half after Janek's initial comments, the Chronicle wrote a piece spotlighting Janek's health care strategies in Texas, and, in an almost laudatory tone, said his appointment "couldn't come at a better time for private hospitals."
From the Chronicle:
The appointment of Janek, a Houston physician, couldn't come at a better time for private hospitals like Memorial Hermann, Methodist and St. Luke's. He's an important ally at a time when the balance of power is shifting dramatically.
Janek recently sparred with Coleman at a public hearing of the House County Affairs Committee, which Coleman chairs. The Houston Democrat noted pointedly that health care districts - not the private hospitals - will put up tax dollars to win an estimated $29 billion in extra federal dollars.
The private hospitals, he complained, "are crying and hollering about someone else's money." He also objected to complaints from private business entities that are "aligned" politically with politicians who oppose government-funded health care.
This wasn't the first time the Chronicle has discussed Janek and failed to push back on his Census skepticism. After the second interview with the Texas Tribune, the Chronicle published a piece that included comments he made at the Tribune event, but the paper again failed to mention or dispute his assertions about the number of uninsured in Texas, instead discussing his opinion on Planned Parenthood's role in the new Texas Women's Health Program.
Despite not holding Janek accountable, the Chronicle has not shied away from discussing the uninsured in Texas. In August they dedicated an entire article to the Census Bureau findings -- the same one Janek claimed didn't provide the whole picture -- noting that Texas' overall percentage of uninsured residents was 26.3 percent. Earlier this month, the Chronicle again discussed the number of uninsured in Texas, writing that the state has the second-highest number of uninsured residents in the nation, but again failed to mention the health commissioner's unfounded skepticism.
While the facts go against Janek's assertion, the more troubling aspect is the failure of the major newspapers in Texas to hold the Commissioner of Health and Human Services accountable for his comments.
The Oklahoman advocated for the separation of science and policy in its editorial pages, expressing serious misgivings about the veracity of manmade climate change and warning that we shouldn't "mi[x] science" with politics. The newspaper is Oklahoma's largest source of printed news and is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.
In a November 28 editorial headlined "Mixing science, politics can result in bad policy," The Oklahoman put scare quotes around the word "science" when discussing global warming and argued that, because the science of climate change isn't "settled," it may as well be ignored by policymakers (emphasis added):
[S]cientific evidence for global warming remains muddled at best. The United Kingdom-based Daily Mail recently noted data compiled from more than 3,000 measuring points on land and sea showed the world stopped getting warmer nearly 16 years ago. Before that, temperatures rose from 1980 to 1996, but had been stable or declined for the 40 years prior to that period. Some scientists believe those temperature changes are a product of natural variability and non-manmade causes. Definitive proof remains elusive for all sides.
Those who claim science is "settled" don't understand science. In 1854, cholera was tied to contaminated water. It took nearly 30 years before that explanation was accepted over theories blaming bad vapors for outbreaks.
When politics taints science more than science improves and informs policy, the results can be distressing. Should we wipe out countless jobs and increase economic hardship for families in the name of global warming theories that could ultimately prove no more valid than the cholera-vapors link?
Skeptical Science, a website dedicated to "explain[ing] what peer reviewed science has to say about global warming," responded to arguments by climate change skeptics who claim, like The Oklahoman, that the science isn't "settled," and is therefore unworthy of consideration by policymakers and politicians:
No science is ever "settled"; science deals in probabilities, not certainties. When the probability of something approaches 100%, then we can regard the science, colloquially, as "settled".
Outside of logic and mathematics, we do not live in a world of certainties. Science comes to tentative conclusions based on the balance of evidence. The more independent lines of evidence are found to support a scientific theory, the closer it is likely to be to the truth. Just because some details are still not well understood should not cast into doubt our understanding of the big picture: humans are causing global warming.
In most aspects of our lives, we think it rational to make decisions based on incomplete information. We will take out insurance when there is even a slight probability that we will need it. Why should our planet's climate be any different?
The National Research Council (NRC) echoed these sentiments in a climate change report, stating that the occurrence of manmade global warming was "so thoroughly examined and tested" that there is a "vanishingly small" likelihood that the findings will be overturned. The report also reiterated the point that certain scientific conclusions have been more thoroughly verified than others, which should have been obvious to editors at The Oklahoman, who dubiously compared modern studies on climate change to 19th century theories about cholera outbreaks. From the NRC report (emphasis added):
From a philosophical perspective, science never proves anything--in the manner that mathematics or other formal logical systems prove things--because science is fundamentally based on observations. Any scientific theory is thus, in principle, subject to being refined or overturned by new observations. In practical terms, however, scientific uncertainties are not all the same. Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities. In other cases, particularly for matters that are at the leading edge of active research, uncertainties may be substantial and important. In these cases, care must be taken not to draw stronger conclusions than warranted by the available evidence.
The Oklahoman published its editorial just one week after the Washington Examiner (also owned by Anschutz) published an op-ed arguing that cutting carbon emissions is futile, raising ethical questions about the papers' tendencies to oppose any policies that would harm their owner's pocketbook.
And The Oklahoman's editorial serves as yet another piece of evidence that conservative voices will attack any peer-reviewed science that doesn't align with their political agenda. Earlier this year, a study by the American Sociological Association looked at "trends in public trust in science in the United States from 1974 to 2010." They found that "conservatives began the period with the highest trust in science, relative to liberals and moderates, and ended the period with the lowest," a finding that seemed to confirm the theories expounded by Chris Mooney in his 2005 book The Republican War on Science -- that the conservative movement has developed a uniquely adversarial relationship with scientific conclusions. The Oklahoman's "Mixing science, politics can result in bad policy" is a clear illustration of this phenomenon.
Major newspapers in Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, and Nevada have urged their governors to reject expansion of Medicaid -- the shared state-federal program that provides health care coverage to low income Americans -- under the Affordable Care Act, citing high costs that they claim would add to the states' financial burdens. In fact, a new report by the Kaiser Family Foundation finds that the Medicaid expansion would substantially reduce the number of uninsured at little cost to their state budgets.
As governors continue to decide whether to implement key aspects of the Affordable Care Act, the editorial boards of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and the Las Vegas Review-Journal urged the rejection of Medicaid expansion, while the editorial board of The Oklahoman applauded the recent decision by Republican Gov. Mary Fallin to reject the funding.
From the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:
As stipulated under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Medicaid eligibility will expand to an additional 800,000 Pennsylvanians -- in effect, placing a quarter of the state's residents on government insurance, according to the Commonwealth Foundation. Never mind that Medicaid currently consumes 30 percent of the state's operating budget.
Once fully realized, ObamaCare will have all the appeal of a perpetual flu.
From the Las Vegas-Review Journal:
The accompanying Medicaid expansion, meanwhile, would throw millions of additional Americans into a system that's already bankrupting state governments and increasing costs in the private market. Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, noting last week that Gov. Sandoval is pondering whether to expand Medicaid eligibility in Nevada, said any Medicaid expansion would mean reduced access to care for those currently enrolled.
President Obama won re-election this month, but the states hold the future of ObamaCare in their hands. Knowing the harm the law would do to our citizens, the economy, and the quality of American health care, Gov. Sandoval should join with many of his colleagues and decline to become the enabler of a vastly expensive, European-style medical rationing system that poll after poll has shown most Americans do not want.
From The Oklahoman:
Oklahoma has joined a growing list of states that won't expand Medicaid or implement state-run health exchanges, two key components of Obamacare. Predictably, the political left argues Republicans are being obstructionist. But why would state Republicans rush to implement a bad law to benefit a president who's made clear he would never do the same if the tables were turned?
As of June 2011, Medicaid programs in all 50 states and the District of Columbia provided health care coverage to 52.6 million people. However, as the economy has improved, the rate of growth of enrollment in the program has slowed down. With the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government wants to expand the program in an effort to decrease the number of uninsured by providing coverage to those with an income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level. Previously, qualification for the program varied depending on factors such as age or employment status. Despite the claims from these editorial boards, the Affordable Care Act's Medicaid expansion provision will in fact achieve its goal, at only a slightly higher cost than what those states currently pay for Medicaid.
A recent study published by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that if all states expanded Medicaid it could lead to health care coverage for an additional 21.3 million people nationally with a total cost of around $1 trillion. Yet, the combined costs to states would only be approximately $76 billion as the federal government will cover the other $952 billion.
Specifically, Pennsylvania, Nevada, and Oklahoma would see significant increases in the number of people insured for only small changes to their current spending.
In Pennsylvania, if all states expanded Medicaid, the state would see a 52 percent reduction in uninsured citizens, while spending 1.4 percent more on Medicaid than current expenditures when accounting for the savings in uncompensated care. While Pennsylvania's expansion costs are higher than some other states, healthcare professionals note that this is because Pennsylvania currently has one of the more draconian Medicaid systems in the country. From WHYY in Pennsylvania:
New Jersey is on the opposite end of the spectrum, with projected costs of $1.2 billion with an expansion. And Pennsylvania? Almost $2 billion over 10 years, even after accounting for savings.
"Pennsylvania has not expanded to adults whereas other states have," said Ann Bacharach with the Pennsylvania Health Law Project.
"If you're a single, childless adult, there is not much that the state can offer in terms of coverage," Bacharach said.
So the new enrollees covered by an expansion would add costs, but the federal contribution would not provide the same savings in Pennsylvania as it will in Delaware.
Meanwhile, Nevada would see a 44.8 percent reduction in uninsured citizens for only 2.6 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. As Media Matters has previously noted, the Review-Journal's editorial board has attacked the Medicaid provision of the Affordable Care Act while neglecting to note any of the benefits expanding Medicaid would have on their state.
Lastly, Oklahoma would see a 54.4 percent reduction in uninsured for only 1.9 percent more in Medicaid spending if all states expanded Medicaid coverage. From Tulsa World:
[David Blatt, director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute] said the governor's calculations also leave out savings to the state in areas such as health, mental health and corrections that are currently outside the Medicaid system but could be included with expansion. Savings to those agencies has been estimated at more than $49.4 million a year.
Also missing from the calculation would be tax revenue increases the state would see as a result of the Affordable Care Act, he said.
For example, the state has a small tax on insurance premiums. If thousands of Oklahomans begin purchasing insurance through a federal health insurance exchange, that tax revenue goes up, he said.
If every state adopted the Medicaid expansion provision they would receive $9 in federal money for every $1 they spend to expand the program. As John Holahan, head of the Urban Institute's Health Policy Research Center and the study's author, said, "It's hard to conclude anything other than this is pretty attractive and should be pretty hard for states to walk away from." Unfortunately, the editorial boards of the Tribune-Review, Review-Journal, and The Oklahoman failed to provide that perspective and explain the overall benefit of Medicaid expansion to their readers.
An editorial in the November 15 edition of the San Diego Union-Tribune advocated for an "oil-shale revolution" by expanding fracking in California, completely ignoring the harmful economic and environmental impacts fracking could have on agriculture and the renowned, multi-billion dollar wine industry in California.
The Union-Tribune gave a whole-hearted endorsement of fracking, specifically in the Monterey Formation region of central California, saying in its editorial:
On Dec. 12, the federal Bureau of Land Management is set to auction off drilling rights to nearly 18,000 acres in Monterey, San Benito and Fresno counties. We hope Gov. Jerry Brown and state regulators talk a calm look at fracking and its long history. Environmentalists' griping about fracking's allegedly huge downside only ramped up when new methods proved transformative for oil and gas exploration.
Even if California's media haven't caught on to the state's potential for a Bakken-style economic boom, the oil industry has. By far the BLM's biggest 2011 lease was the $180,000 paid for a 200-acre parcel by Vintage Production California, a Bakersfield-based subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum, the third-largest U.S. oil and gas producer. On Oxy's website, it estimates the shale reserves on California land it already controls to have over 20 billion barrels of potential oil - a claim that the company says is made in accordance with the Securities and Exchange Commission's rule that only "economically producible" reserves can be cited in SEC filings.
The Union-Tribune left out some important voices in the discussion on fracking, most notably farmers and winery owners. Simon Salinas, a member of the Monterey County Board of Supervisors, has expressed fear that it could taint the food and water supply needed to grow crops or produce wine -- which in California is a $19.9 billion a year industry.
Deputy editorial page editor Kevin O'Brien used his weekly platform in the pages of The Cleveland Plain Dealer to parrot national conservatives by encouraging the Republican-led House of Representatives to continue its policies of obstruction and explaining that people who voted for President Obama are either socialists or consider the president to be a "fun fad."
In his November 7 column titled "It's twilight in America," O'Brien also argued that Obama is "bent on [America's] fundamental transformation" -- a prospect furthered by a "rogue Congress" that passed the president's healthcare bill in spite of "what was then popular." O'Brien called on the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to continue acting as a "firewall" of obstructionism. He wrote (emphasis added):
For the half of America that understands the peril in which their country stands, the House remains the firewall, just as it has been these last two years. And for at least two more years, the House will not let us down.
It all seems the perfect recipe for gridlock, and gridlock probably will seem to be the result.
But in this presidential term, nothing as healthy as gridlock will be achieved, because Barack Obama's re-election changes everything.
Absent a miracle, the president will achieve the fundamental transformation he desires for America.
The passage of Obamacare by a rogue Congress that ignored what was then the popular will has put this country on a course toward socialism and a different popular will.
Given the chance to change that course with this election, Americans -- by a very thin margin in the popular vote -- declined.
O'Brien also attempted to explain to readers exactly why voters would have chosen Obama over GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney (emphasis added):
Some declined because they just don't see a problem. For young voters, especially, Obama is a fun fad -- a celebrity president who promises them all sorts of wonderful things that are either free or that someone else will pay for. Many of them will come to their senses when they realize they're permanently worse off than their parents, but that will take time.
Some declined because they actually see socialism as a desirable outcome. They have been fed the progressive line from kindergarten through graduate school, and they believe it sincerely. They also plan to be among the elites who, in a more enlightened country, will make the decisions for the rest of us. To them, Obama is a kindred spirit.
Some declined because a bigger, more activist, more paternal government benefits them directly, either by employing them or by providing for them in other ways. Mitt Romney may not have been right about their numbers -- his off-the-cuff reference to 47 percent of the population was a little high -- but he was right about their existence, their political priorities and their strength in the voting booth.
But I think most declined because they're simply afraid of what lies ahead. Rather than facing the problems of incipient fiscal calamity and sociocultural rot, they opted for more reassurances from an Obama-led Washington that all will be well if we just tax more and spend more.
O'Brien's message to Ohioans echoes the themes national conservatives have been pushing since Election Night -- to encourage more GOP obstruction and to explain away Obama's re-election by dismissing half of the electorate as wards of the state or people who just want "free stuff."
Meanwhile, editorial boards at Ohio newspapers in nearby Columbus and Toledo argued that the president won re-election because Republicans followed the conservative movement too far to the right. From the Toledo Blade:
Republicans must step out of the shadows of the party's far-right wing. If the Tea Party continues to dictate the Republican Party's platform, the GOP not only will fail to broaden its base, but also will continue to alienate traditional, more moderate Republicans.
And the Columbus Dispatch noted:
Now it's time for responsible Republicans to take their party back from the fringe that loses them elections. It's not true that Republicans needed better candidates. They had excellent contenders. The problem was that the electable ones couldn't leap the lunacy barrier erected by the right wing.
A lengthy South Florida Sun-Sentinel article on Florida's Election Day fiascos whitewashed Republican Gov. Rick Scott's role in creating horrific voting scenarios that have made the state a national laughingstock and disenfranchised parts of the Florida electorate.
The article, published in the November 8 edition of the Sun-Sentinel, buried Scott's refusal to follow a Florida tradition of extending early-voting hours after reports over the weekend that voters stood in long lines waiting for hours to cast a ballot and noted his refusal only in the context of partisan criticism from former governor and "Obama supporter" Charlie Crist. Worse, the article seemed to imply that Scott joined President Obama in expressing a strong desire to fix the system that he left broken. His comments, however, don't reflect the empathy attributed to him by the reporter. From the article (emphasis added):
Images of long, long lines of people in South Florida waiting to cast ballots during early voting dominated the airwaves. Many voters in Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties reported waiting several hours. That continued on Election Day with some voters in Miami not getting done at the polls until about 1:30 a.m.
Even Obama seemed to have noticed, making an apparent jab at Florida in his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning.
"I want to thank every American who participated in this election whether you voted for the very first time or waited in line for a very long time," he said. "By the way, we have to fix that."
And the president is not the only one saying that.
Gov. Rick Scott, when questioned last week about the long voter lines, said that seeing so many people turn out to do their civic duty was "exciting."
On Wednesday, Scott stopped short of criticizing the state election's process, but said he would be reviewing it with Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner.
"What went right, what can we improve?" Scott said.
Over the past two weeks, The Oklahoman has published a series of articles promoting expanded domestic oil and gas drilling, claiming that increased U.S. production would limit the price volatility of gasoline and lower prices for consumers, even though experts agree that expanding American oil production would not mean lower gas prices and would still leave us "vulnerable to any shocks to the system."
From The Oklahoman (emphasis added):
[Rayola Dougher, senior economist at the American Petroleum Institute] said it is nearly impossible to predict what will happen to the price of oil if domestic production in the United States continues to rise, but an increasing supply of oil likely would apply downward pressure to prices and benefit American consumers.
Lower oil prices could translate into reduced gasoline prices.
As TIME magazine pointed out in April, even if we could produce all the oil to meet our currently large demand, it wouldn't actually lower or stabilize oil and gasoline prices. From TIME:
While unconventional sources promise to keep the supply of oil flowing, it won't flow as easily as it did for most of the 20th century. The new supplies are for the most part more expensive than traditional oil from places like the Middle East, sometimes significantly so. They are often dirtier, with higher risks of accidents. The decline of major conventional oil fields and the rise in demand mean the spare production capacity that once cushioned prices could be gone, ushering in an era of volatile market swings.
[C]ontrary to what the drill-here, drill-now crowd says, oil companies could punch holes in every state and barely make a dent in gasoline prices. Even a more energy independent U.S. can't control prices, not with a thirsty China competing on the globalized oil market. "Energy security is fine, but it doesn't have that much meaning in a globalized economy," says Guy Caruso, a former head of the EIA. "More production adds fungibility to the world market, but we're still vulnerable to shocks in other countries." The oil the U.S. uses may be American, but that doesn't mean it will be cheap.
Guy Caruso, the U.S. Energy Information Administration Chief for six years under former President George W. Bush, has stated that "energy independence" through increased oil production is a "political slogan" and that the U.S. would still be "vulnerable to any shocks in the system."
These facts didn't stop The Oklahoman from pushing energy independence in its article on lower prices and less volatility. Instead they cited an economist from the American Petroleum Institute who said that energy independence would lower gasoline prices and an economist from Oklahoma City University who claimed that developing our own product would "help us smooth out that [price] volatility." The Oklahoman did not disclose that Agee is also an oil executive.
The Oklahoman regularly touts energy industry sources, something they did over 43 percent of the time in part one of their series, while leaving out the consensus of more neutral experts across the political spectrum that increasing domestic drilling would not lower gas prices. This is unsurprising, given that oil and gas magnate Philip Anschutz owns the newspaper.
Wisconsin-based radio host Charlie Sykes may want to be the next Glenn Beck.
But a new marketing project aimed at spreading his hard conservative talk brand beyond home station WTMJ of Milwaukee to web, video, social media and perhaps other media outlets owned by parent company Journal Communications is drawing concern in the state's media community. Sykes' burgeoning network of platforms resembles nothing other than a smaller-scale version of the former Fox News host's sprawling web-based empire.
"That is a fair comparison," says Don Walker, a 34-year veteran of Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, which is also owned by Journal Communications. "Glenn took this huge, I think risk, getting off Fox, or he was pushed, and he left Fox to form this very, very different venture. I think there is some comparison to that Charlie is making a move in a direction that he senses that he can make a move nationally, that he can make a move in a national direction."
That potential move is causing distress in the ranks of the state's journalists, including among reporters at the Journal Sentinel who say the paper already suffers from its association with Sykes' hard-right views.
Several newspaper staffers point to Sykes' partisan approach as undermining the paper's image as the source for fair, unbiased news.
"I know that it frustrates some people," Craig Gilbert, who works out of the Journal Sentinel Washington, D.C., bureau said about his newspaper's staffers. Gilbert called Sykes "a guy who takes sides in all these political battles" and said the radio host's show "certainly has an impact on the Republican party, all of the conservative talk, on Republican primaries. It's a venue where if you are a Republican politician, you can speak to your base in a sympathetic environment."
"I think there's probably people out there who feel we're this large cabal and that we're force-feeding our particular views on all our products," he said about Sykes' impact, later adding, "he does this show, I think it is highly, highly partisan, there is no mistaking where he is coming from. I think a lot of people, including journalists, feel that most of the time he is there just to repeat Republican Party talking points."
In just the last year, Sykes, 57, has used his platform to become a major voice in the nationally-followed recall election of Republican Gov. Scott Walker, and more recently has enjoyed access to GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan, whose congressional district is just south of Sykes' home base.
A former reporter for the Milwaukee Journal (which merged with the Milwaukee Sentinel in 1995) and one time editor of Milwaukee Magazine, Sykes launched his radio show nearly 20 years ago on WTMJ. He also hosts a Sunday morning political talk show on WTMJ-TV and this year produced his sixth book A Nation of Moochers (St. Martin's Press, 2012).
But it may be Sykes' newest effort, the ambitious Conservative Politics Digital Project, which will extend his reach even further. The project, using the website RightWisconsin.com, seeks to take his outspoken conservative approach and expand it to many platforms, including podcasts, web columns, videos, and on-location events.
Given his recent high-profile connections to some of the country's conservative leaders -- and the backing of a communications company that owns 48 television and radio stations in 12 states -- observers say Sykes has the platform to push his far-right views nationally.
"He is a smart, ambitious guy and I would not be surprised to see him go beyond WTMJ," said Jim Romenesko, who runs an influential media news website and worked with Sykes at Milwaukee Magazine in the 1980s. Asked if Sykes could reach that national level, Romenesko added, "I think so, he's smart, he's very quick and I think he has what it takes to really capture the audience's attention. He knows how to play that talk radio game."
An online ad for a managing editor of the Conservative Politics Digital Project indicates it will be a very direct effort to push a conservative message, describing it as "a new suite of digital products related to Charlie Sykes and targeted at Conservatives in Wisconsin."
Despite the prevalence of green energy in Pennsylvania, a Media Matters study found that both the Philadelphia Inquirer and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette generally ignore clean energy in their reporting and neither paper has ever mentioned the overwhelming public support for green energy.
According to the Media Matters study, the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette collectively wrote 62 articles on energy and the environment from July 1, 2012 through August 15, 2012. In that time period, neither paper reported on public support of green technology, and both papers failed to discuss green energy in all but 9 articles. These papers did, however, cover stories about natural gas, coal, and oil frequently -- rarely mentioning green energy as an alternative source of energy.
Although nearly impossible to discern from the pages of the Inquirer or the Post-Gazette, Pennsylvania is actually one of the top green energy producing states in the country. As of 2010, Pennsylvania made the Solar Energy Industries Association's top 10 list for cumulative installed solar capacity. In addition, both Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have been designated Solar America Cities by the Department of Energy. Through the solar energy initiative championed by former Governor Ed Rendell, consumers could expect to see savings of $10 billion by 2017.
Pennsylvania also ranks 16th nationally in total wind capacity installed, according to the American Wind Energy Association, with 751 megawatts (MW) currently online and another 3,391 MW in queue. Last year, PECO Energy Co. announced it was dropping the extra fee for purchasing renewable power -- which mostly comes from wind energy -- and would be keeping prices the same for customers or potentially even lowering their bill.
Green energy is also very popular among Pennsylvania residents. According to an October 2010 poll by Susquehanna Polling and Research, 85 percent of Pennsylvania voters surveyed thought it was important to support continued expansion of wind energy farms. In addition, a majority of voters would still support clean energy technology even if it cost $2 extra per month. Another poll conducted in April 2012 by the Small Business Majority found that 73 percent of Pennsylvania small business owners surveyed thought that government investment in clean energy has an important role in boosting our national economy. Pennsylvania's largest newspaper, however, have entirely failed to report this dynamic.
For more information on our analysis of clean energy coverage in state media click HERE
A two-part Media Matters examinantion of the largest newspapers in CO, NH, NV, OH, PA and VA from July 1-August 15 and from August 16-October 31, 2012 revealed a variety of shortcomings in the way clean energy and regulatory issues are covered by those publications.
Over the weekend, The Oklahoman introduced the first installment of a two-part series on "energy independence" that overwhelmingly focused on the oil and gas industry while failing to note its harmful effects on both the environment and public health. The reliance on oil industry sources is unsurprising given that the paper is owned by billionaire oil and gas tycoon Philip Anschutz.
Iowa radio host Jan Mickelson opened his show Tuesday by concurring with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that homosexuality is an "ugly behavior" and accusing CNN's Piers Morgan of "moral, intellectual bankruptcy" for broaching the subject in an interview with the leader Monday night.
From WHO-AM 1040 (emphasis added):
[playing clip of CNN interview]
PIERS MORGAN: Shouldn't freedom and individuality in all those things also extend to people who just happen to be gay? Who were born gay. They weren't made gay. Wouldn't it be great for the president of Iran to say, 'you know something, everyone's entitled to be whatever sexuality they are born to be.' That would be a great symbol of freedom.
MAHMOUD AHMADINEJAD: Do you really believe that someone is born homosexual?
MORGAN: Yes. I absolutely believe that. Yes, I do.
AHMADINEJAD: I'm sorry, let me ask you this. Do you believe that anyone is given birth to through homosexuality? Homosexuality ceases procreation. Who has said that if you like or believe in doing something ugly and others do not accept your behavior, they are denying your freedom? Who says that? Who says that?
Perhaps in a country, they wish to legitimize stealing --
MORGAN: You are a father of three. You are a father of -- you have two sons and a daughter. What would you do if one of them was gay?
AHMADINEJAD: Ah, these things have different ways - the proper education must be given, proper -- the education system must be revamped, the political system must be revamped, and these must be also reformed and revamped along the way. But if you - if a group - recognizes an ugly behavior or ugly deed as legitimate, you must not expect other countries or other groups to give it the same recognition.
[end CNN clip]
JAN MICKELSON: Gee, we're still struggling with those same issues in almost exactly the same terms, but I think it is absolutely fascinating that a moment of international tension -- where literally nuclear exchanges could occur -- incendiary comments about the legitimacy of countries and the roots of the legitimacy of Israel have been challenged and they're going to be eliminated. What does CNN ask? 'Hey, what if your kids are gay?' That is a demonstration of the absolute moral, intellectual bankruptcy of Western, mainstream media and that particular journalist -- how values can be so topsy-turvy.
And the weird thing is, you know, on that exchange I've got to go with that Iranian fellow. Did I ever think I would be the position to actually agree with the potential-serial killing, nuclear-crazed [inaudible]. Talk about ironies. Anyway. Wow.
This was not Mickelson's first foray into anti-gay commentary. He has referred to the LGBT community as a "religious cult," and suggested that AIDS is God's "invention" to "punish" the "stupid behavior" of homosexuality, which forced Clear Channel Communications (which owns the 50kW WHO-AM 1040) to issue an on-air statement criticizing Mickelson.
Equality for the LGBT community is at the forefront of political discourse in Iowa, where conservatives are waging a campaign to oust Iowa Supreme Court Justice David Wiggins, who "was among seven Iowa justices who voted unanimously in a 2009 ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in Iowa."